Category Archives: development, marginal gains

Mindfulness & the Christian Coach


You simply cannot live in todays world and not have heard of mindfulness. It has become a bit of a buzzword these days.

an article in the Sunday New York Times pointed out

…Mindfulness has come to comprise a dizzying range of meanings for popular audiences. It’s an intimately attentive frame of mind. It’s a relaxing, alert frame of mind. It’s equanimity. It’s a form of rigorous Buddhist meditation called vipassana (insight), or a form of another kind of Buddhist meditation called asanapanasmrti (awareness of the Heart). It’s M.B.S.R. therapy (mindfulness based stress reduction). It’s just kind of stopping to smell the roses. And last, it’s a lifestyle trend, a social movement and – as a Time magazine cover had it last year – a revolution.

Like, I’m Sure, many Christians, I struggle with the concept of mindfulness, largely due to its Buddhist roots, and yet at first glance, there is something attractive about it. In the midst of an overworked, consumerist culture or a culture of relentless competition and pushing for the next level performance, couldn’t mindfulness off us something true and good?

There are a couple of concerns 

#1 – “as a Christian, mindfulness goes against my theology, as its a Buddhist practice”

It is true that mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, However the type of practice that is employed by athletes and coaches is totally westernised, it is devoid of any spiritual or religious connotations and simply focuses on the act of awareness. at its very core It is stress reduction. 

Stress damages our emotional, mental and physical bodies, costs billions every year, it has a negative impact on our children as well as the athletes ability to operate at their very best. Mindfulness is an incredibly inexpensive, powerful and easy tool in dealing with challenging and often overwhelming issues.

#2 – “As a Christian, mindfulness is about ‘clearing the mind.’ This opens a gateway to demonic/evil forces, thoughts or actions”

Mindfulness is not about clearing, In fact, its pretty much the opposite of that.

Mindfulness, on every level regardless of which exercise you practice (mindful breathing, walking, hearing etc), is about bringing awareness to thought. What is ‘cleared’ is the overwhelming majority of thoughts – it teaching you how to quiet the incessant dialogue that ravages our brain to bring forth quiet, clarity and clam.

It is my belief that mindfulness offers Christian a way to deepen their faith in, and to develop a deeper connection to, God. By learning to ‘tune out’ distractions and focusing on the moment, listening to that still small voice offers a way to learn, grow and focus completely on what God wants for our lives.

As a coach, I have debated the use of mindfulness with my athletes, it is something that I should encourage, is it something that we should utilise? it has undeniable benefits for race preparation and readiness.

Should a Christian coach encourage their athletes to practice mindfulness?

the mind is the athlete
Mindfulness

My answer, at the moment, is a resounding yes, (Once again let me stress that I am referring to the completely westernised, non religious form of mindfulness). It is my belief that the calm focus on the immediate, the ability to calm the doubts and just act in the moment is a huge benefit to the athlete.

 

I know that not everyone will agree with me and that is fine, debate is healthy and this post barely scrapes the surface of a huge subject.

Until next time

 

P

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H is for……..


Ok so I know I have skipped a few letters there but I will go back to them next I promise.

in the meantime

His for……………

holistic
Characterized by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole, the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the athlete.
Some of the decisions we make as coaches are hard.
It would be very easy to simply look at names and numbers on a page, come up with systems and apply them to those numbers and names. We may even get some results doing things that way but what is the long-term effect?
holistic
Holistic approach
If our job as coaches is simply to produce the fastest swimmers we can then maybe we can afford to simply push the physical side as hard as we can as often as we can. If they break down then we learn and maybe the next wave of athletes will be better from what we learn from our mistakes.
But as coaches we are responsible for much, much, more than this.
I recognise the fact that 90% of the athletes I coach will stop swimming before they achieve their physical potential. I work every day to try to ensure that each and every one of them has the option to continue to swim for as long as they wish. However, the benefits gained from a physically active lifestyle are huge. the physical, emotional, intellectual and lifestyle benefits are immeasurable.
Our job as coaches is to ensure the development of the whole person. We owe it to the athletes in our care to get to know them, to understand what makes them tick. we owe it to each and every one of them to care about them.
Something, it seems, that can easily be overlooked in pursuit of success.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to coach an Olympian, I want to coach multiple Olympians.
But is that the most important part of my job? Not really.
The treatment of the whole person IS the most important part of our job.
Til next time

D is for…….


The next in my A-Z of coaching…..

d is for…..

Every child that joins a swimming club has a Dream. They want to win races, to get better and, ultimately, go to the Olympics.

Dreams  are aspiration desires. Dreams should be BIG, dreams that don’t scare you, dreams that don’t get you out of bed every single day are simply not big enough.

Those people who achieve their dreams are those who have the DRIVE to transform their dreams into goals.

The D in my A-Z is therefore Drive. 

SnttIx2

To be driven is to be compelled to act in a particular way, especially one that may be considered difficult.

There is no doubt that sport if difficult. No ‘normal’ people would do it. Its a lot of early mornings and long weekends. Its dealing with injuries and disappointments. Its antisocial.

It takes special people to stick at sport for the long haul, to reach the very top.

It takes people with Drive

Personally the thing that drives me is the desire to prove that I know what I am doing smiley-face-flat

I consider myself to have been incredibly lucky as a coach, I have coaches some athletes who have been exceptional Irish swimmers but there is always that little doubt at the back of my head. The reality that those athletes would in all likelihood have achieved at least as much, if not more, elsewhere.

If my desire is to become as good as I can be, to be as close to world class as possible, then I believe I need to assist athletes to reach their fullest potential on a consistent basis. It is this drive that wakens me every morning at 5am, that makes the decision to say no to nights out an easy one.

It is my belief that no matter what area of life you have ambition in, without drive your dreams will remain just that.

 

 

C is for…….


This is an easy one for me.

is for

CONSISTENCY

The dictionary describes

consistency

as

noun

  1. consistent behaviour or treatment.

“the consistency of measurement techniques”

Or

      2. the way in which a substance holds together; thickness or viscosity.

“the sauce has the consistency of creamed butter”

Try as I might I couldn’t think of of a way to get definition 2 into a blog on coaching. Best I could do was a tentative link to the viscosity of water 😕

So I’ll just have to go with definition 1.

Screenshot_2017-10-20-17-25-24-1.png

Our program is built around a consistent, relentless effort. We work 8/9 pool sessions and 3/4 gym sessions and we train gets every day.

We live by the hashtag #TNDO

Now I understand the need to recover and those sessions are built into the program as and when needed. I monitor fitness and fatigue as closely as I can and back off when needs must. But, we don’t not train…..ever.

Screenshot_2017-10-20-17-26-13-1.png

If you aspire to be world class, you have to behave in a world class way – everyday, everywhere, in everything.

It’s no good deciding to world class today then tomorrow switching off and drifting through. There There is no point trying to be world class in the pool if your lifestyle doesn’t match.

The harsh (?) reality is that we are that which we repeatedly do.

There needs to be consistency before there will ever been success.

The good news is that this is something YOU control, you can decide at any point to adopt those habits that will help you achieve your goals.

If your goals and dreams are big enough they will drive you to make the hard choices and stand out from the crowd and to be exceptional.

It’s all up to you

Parents in Sport Week


Date :- 2nd – 8th October 2017

 

This is week is parents in sport week

The primary focus of parent in sport week is to highlight the valuable role parents play (and the positive influence they have) in ensuring that young people develop to their full potential and enjoy their time playing sport. Parents play a pivotal role in sport and young people depend on their support and encouragement.

I have, in the past, possibly been a little tough on parents (see my last post maybe). If this is the case then it is only because, as a coach of a youth team, I know 1st hand how important parents are in the development of their children. I witness the positive influence many, many, great parents have on their young aspiring athletes.

I understand the power a negative word or a negative outlook by parents has on the dreams and ambitions of many children.

Larne Swimming Club is an athlete centred, coach driven program designed to help every child reach their full potential in a safe and encouraging environment.

This would not be at all possible if it wasn’t for the tireless work that goes on behind the scenes by a small number of parents who sit on the committee and run the administrative and financial sides of the club. These parents set aside the personal ambitions they have for their own children to help the club develop every child within it. The coaching team is very ably augmented by a team of parents who come on poolside to help deliver the best program possible.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every volunteer parent who assists with the smooth running of the club, without you youth sport in general, and Larne SC specifically, would cease to exist.

 

I would also like to thank my own mum an dad for everything

Change the world


A retiring navy seal gives one of the most inspiring speeches I have heard.

If you want to achieve your goals…….start by making your bed in the morning.

Its only a little thing but if you cant do the little things right you will never be able to do the big things.

This is great advice for life and sport.

All those little things coaches push over and over are important – essential – if you are to achieve your goals.

If you can look back on each training session and know that you did the small things right, if you can face challenges and learn from mistakes, if you can set your sight on that one goal and never ever give up, then you will be successful.

I love this video, hope you do too.

Have a great sunday

(Go make that bed)